Category Archives: Wat Phou

Champasak Province

Champasak Lao: ຈຳປາສັກ [càmpàːsák]) is a province in southwestern Laos, near the borders with Thailand and Cambodia. It covers an area of 15,415 square kilometres (5,952 sq mi). It is bordered by Salavan Province to the north, Sekong Province to the northeast, Attapeu Province to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west.

Champasak Province from Done Daeng Island

Champasak Province from Done Daeng Island

Champasak has played a central role in the history of Siam and Laos, with frequent battles taking place in and around Champasak. Its rich cultural heritage includes ancient temple ruins and French colonial architecture. Champasak has some 20 Wats (temples), such as Wat Phou, Wat Luang, Wat Phu Salao, and Wat Tham Fai. Freshwater dolphins, the coffee plantations on Bolaven Plateau and the province’s many waterfalls are tourist attractions.[1]

Champasak Province from Wat Phou

Champasak Province from Wat Phou

Reaching your destination from the capital city of Pakse is relatively easy whether you choose to drive yourselves (as we did) or to take a guided tour. We didn’t spend much time in Pakse itself, preferring to use it as a base for our other adventures. One town worth visiting is Pakxong. No, there is nothing much there and that is because the Americans carpet bombed the city twice during the Vietnam war and practically obliterated the entire town. What you see now has been largely rebuilt from the rubble and demonstrates the hardy character of the Laos people.

Wat Thomo Ruins

Wat Thomo Ruins

The ruins of Uo Moung (Thomo Temple), the 9th century Khmer style temple that resides in the forest on the mainland to the southwest of Done Daeng Island, is worth the entry fee of 10,000kip. Not much is kn0wn about the temple except that it is is considered to be the female counterpart to the Temple of Shiva at Wat Phou, as an inscription indicates that it was dedicated to Rudrani, the shakti of Shiva. Unfortunately these ruins are busy being consumed by the foliage so you may want to see it before it is too late 😉

At the southern end of the province are the 4,000 islands that cater for all manner of tourism from those that are always on the get go, to those that want to experience traditional Laos culture. We visited the islands of Don Khone, Don Det and Done Daeng during our stay and had remarkably different experiences at each one.

Champasak Province is a beautiful part of Laos and definitely worth a visit.

Champasak Province from Wat Sa Lao

Champasak Province from Wat Sa Lao

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Wikipdeia – Champasak Province – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champasak_Province Accessed 29th Oct 2015

Wat Phou Part Two

The structures within Wat Phou are built on seven terraces and, as is typical of most Khmer temples, it was constructed facing towards the east. The uppermost terrace contains the main sanctuary and offers fantastic views over the surrounding area. Sitting up here at sunset is an incredibly peaceful experience, however do not try to climb down in the dark as there is a good chance of a sprained ankle.

Like most Angkorien temples Wat Phou is adorned with all manner or Hindu deities and creatures such as Indra riding the three headed elephant Airavata (pictured below) or the deity riding the Kala (a monstrous serpent usually depicted with no bottom jaw) pictured in the images at the bottom of this post.

Indra riding the three headed elephant Airavata

Indra riding the three headed elephant Airavata

Every year, during the full moon of the 3rd lunar month, there is a three-day festival called Boun Wat Phou Champasak. Thousands of Lao people attend to pay their respects and bring offerings to Buddha.

Wat Phou04

Wat Phou is constantly under renovation and some of the structures may be off limits when you visit. Needless to say, it is definitely something to add to your ‘must see’ list in Laos.

 

Wat Phou Part One

SunsetThe Wat Phou is a ruined Khmer Hindu temple that forms part of the Champasak Cultural Landscape, which is a well preserved landscape more than a 1,000 years old.

According to UNESCO’s website, “It was shaped to express the Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity, using an axis from mountain top to river bank to lay out a geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extending over some 10 km. Two planned cities on the banks of the Mekong River are also part of the site, as well as Phou Kao mountain. The whole represents a development ranging from the 5th to 15th centuries, mainly associated with the Khmer Empire.” [1]

It resides at the base of Mount Phou Kao, a curious formation with a natural linga at the top that is supposed to represent the phallic symbol of Shiva. Personally I think it looks more like a nipple than a penis, but that’s just my opinion.

The original temple dates back to the 5th century, however the remaining structures are circa 11th to 13th century. At the top of the temple is a fresh water spring where it is believed that Shiva used to bathe. The spring water flows through wooden troughs and into large stone vessels pictured below. Visitors splash their faces with the water as a type of blessing, or for good luck.

 

[1] UNESCO – Vat Phou – http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/481 Accessed 26th November 2015